Police in Raoul Moat manhunt face searching questions

By Nick Ravenscroft
BBC North of England correspondent

Image caption,
Looking for Moat was like a searching for a "needle in a very large haystack"

Senior officers will be relieved that a man who threatened to kill police and members of the public was successfully contained with only one further casualty - the gunman himself.

But investigations into several aspects of the hunt for gunman Raoul Moat will now be carried out by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

There are many questions about the actions of the police, especially at the early stages of the investigation. Will they all be answered?

One focus of the IPCC probe is why police appear not to have acted upon a warning from Durham Prison that Raoul Moat risked causing "serious harm" to his ex-girlfriend Samantha Stobbart.

The next day she was shot and her new boyfriend, Chris Brown, was killed, in Moat's first attacks.

At that stage Northumbria Police asked the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to investigate.

Its commissioner Nicholas Long has now said the prison warning will be looked into alongside the investigation into Moat's death, which is required because police had contact with the suspect before he died.

IPCC investigators went to the scene in the early hours of Saturday, after Moat apparently shot himself.

Speaking on Saturday Mr Long said: "Early indications show that gunshots were not fired by police officers and this will of course form part of the IPCC independent investigation.

"It is also understood that a police officer did discharge a Taser [stun gun] and our investigation will also look at this." The IPCC later confirmed that police fired two Taser stun guns at Moat.

Their investigation will look at two matters. Firstly, it will examine when the intelligence about the danger to Moat's ex-girlfriend was sent from Durham Prison to the police and what the force did with it.

Which officer was it passed to? Of what rank? What decision or action was taken. Did the officer in question act reasonably or, for example, did they do nothing for 24 hours?

And secondly, it will consider the circumstances of the overnight stand-off and Moat's death - looking at how the negotiations were carried out, whether officers followed national police guidance on dealing with somebody presenting a threat to themselves.

It will look at why the Tasers were discharged and at what point. Was it, for example, to try and prevent Moat harming himself?

'Gut instincts'

There are many facets to the IPCC's investigation. But other questions also remain.

Prior to the stand-off on Friday, did police miss another opportunity, when Moat visited a friend to ask him to deliver a letter to detectives?

They failed to monitor the house and so were not there to arrest Moat when he visited his friend a second time.

Was there also an unnecessary delay in releasing details of the black Lexus car associated with the fugitive?

Once that information was published a member of the public reported it straight away, leading police to the area where we now know that he was hiding.

It seems he may have used a large drainage pipe running under the town to hide at least some of the time. Did police know about this? Did they check it?

On a positive note, one of their successes was to keep following the "gut instincts" of Det Chief Supt Neil Adamson and other senior officers that as the days went by, Moat was still in Rothbury.

The clamour of the doubters, both within the town and around the UK, was reaching a crescendo by the end of the week.

Were the car, the tent and the letter simply a decoy? Had he slipped through the net? Was he sitting in Newcastle or the Netherlands, laughing at the police's efforts?

Despite the pressure, officers stuck with Rothbury. And it paid off.

Take him alive

Had it entered a second week with Moat still on the run, I sense the patience of people round here may have run out - not least with a perceived threat to the wider public and the constant irritation of police raids and the media circus.

And the press were sharpening their pencils in readiness for some cutting commentaries.

Image caption,
Raoul Moat was eventually surrounded by police

It did take a long time to find Moat, considering the massive resources used.

But one former firearms adviser to Northumbria and the Metropolitan Police Forces said it had been a brilliant job.

Andy Redhead explained the length of time it took to find Moat was similar to finding a needle in a very large haystack, with alleged accomplices helping him stay hidden.

Det Chief Supt Adamson said the "extraordinary events" had "tested the resolve and professionalism of all involved".

He said while they believed Moat had remained in the area, their search was "frustrated by a number of significant challenges including a potential hostage situation and apparent support and assistance for Moat, from third parties".

Ultimately, the police got their man - though they would have preferred to take him alive and put him before the courts.

And many had feared a worse ending, a remote cottage or farmhouse - of which there are countless round here - with a family taken hostage.

In that scenario, the stakes would have been much higher - and the pressure on police to get it right immense.